Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles we enjoyed this week, good for consumption over a cup of coffee (or tea, if that's your pleasure). Settle in for a while; we saved you a seat. You can also look through the archives.
Katie Prout neatly takes the romance out of “starving writer” with this account of her experience at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop — and Iowa’s food banks. This isn’t a story about sacrificing for your art; it’s a story about the social construct of “the real writer,” and how one university leverages it to its own advantage.
I wondered if I shouldn’t go to the food bank tonight. I thought about all the hours, the days, of not writing, and the shame of it built, but I need to eat, I don’t have a Hadley, which was the name of Hemingway’s second wife, and I don’t have her fortune either, which is how Hemingway was supported during his young years in Paris. In addition to my work with Brian, I’m an instructor at the university where I attend the best nonfiction writing program in the country, and I make approximately $18,000 a year before taxes. When I was denied a second teaching assistantship at the university this summer for the upcoming school year even though I already had signed a contract with the offering department, my director explained that it was in the school’s best interests to look after my best interests, and my best interest was to make sure that I had time write my thesis. Most graduate students are lucky if they get one, it was explained. After, a program-wide email was sent out explaining why the university generally doesn’t allow us to get other university jobs, and encouraging us not to look for any jobs outside of our instructing ones at all.
Terese Marie Mailhot writes eloquently (of course) about the complexities of ceremony, assimilation, and appropriation. “The rhetoric of lost culture is a white imposition” is an incredibly important idea: appropriation isn’t just about naming (ahem) a city’s hockey team “the Totems” — it is as subtle and malignant as declaring, from a position of power, what has been lost, what should be mourned, and even what culture is.
And now, at 35, I am unceremoniously here on staff at Purdue University, an Indian in Indiana without my people. I teach and travel, migrating with semesters. I link myself with other Indigenous communities and speak to people about intergenerational trauma. I explain that what’s been lost is hard to communicate without damaging our psyches or being exploited. It’s hard to not engage in performative measures for white people who might want to grieve us or tour genocide — or save us, or liberate us by bearing witness. I am not a relic, I say over and over at every event as if it were a conjuring, and it is an affirmation.
This has been everywhere but is still irresistible fun: Daniel Radcliffe spent a day working in The New Yorker’s fact-checking department to prepare for an upcoming role in The Lifespan of a Fact, a play based on the real-life story of an epic seven-year battle between fact-checker Jim Fingal and author John D’Agata.) Radcliffe takes the job with charming seriousness and a very appropriate humility.
"Hi, Justin. I’m Dan, at The New Yorker," Radcliffe began, twiddling a red pencil. "Some of these questions are going to feel very boring and prosaic to you," he warned. "So bear with me. First off, your surname: is that spelled B-A-Z-D-A-R-I-C-H?" (It is.) "Does the restaurant serve guacamole?" (Yes.) "In the dip itself, would it be right to say there are chilies in adobo and cilantro?" (No adobo, but yes to the cilantro.) "Is there a drink you serve there, a Paloma?" (Yes.) "And that’s pale, pink, and frothy, I believe?" (Correct.) "Is brunch at your place—which, by the way, sounds fantastic—served seven days a week?" (Yes.) "That’s great news," Radcliffe said, "for the accuracy of this, and for me."
I’d completely forgotten about that crazy-awful scene from It, the one where “An 11-year-old girl has sex with six boys, one after another!”, which is the point of this essay by Anastasia Basil: when everything is water, you don’t notice that you’re drowning. A revealing tour of the cultural and historic touchpoints in the 80s and 90s that shaped today’s voters, and a critical reminder to keep swimming hard for the surface, even when the waves get big.
Look, I get it. I was 20 years old in 1990. After my boyfriend punched me in the eye, he cried too. I held him until he felt better. I told friends I’d stupidly walked into the corner of an open cabinet. Because, like the Washington Post in 1990, I understood it was my job to help men feel better about themselves. It was my job to understand that their gross, abusive language was just locker room talk. Most men don’t mean to hit us or rape us or verbally abuse us. They don’t really want gay people strung up and hung. It’s just a macho act, you know? Like the Diceman. Besides, if women don’t like that sort of thing, why do they go for guys like that? Or vote them into office? Or make them Supreme Court justices?